Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Father’s Day is coming up this Sunday. Yee-haw!
That means we get to sleep in, not shave, get in a round of golf, and basically have our family wait on us hand-and-foot all day - right? We get full control over the remote to watch whatever we want to on TV; we don’t have to do any yard work; and we certainly don’t have to get all dressed up and go to church - right? It’s supposed to be all about us and what we want to do for an entire day - right?
WRONG!

The world seems to think that Homer Simpson is the model of fatherhood today. Watch just about any TV show or observe the myriad of commercials depicting men and you will see men and fathers shown as idiots, buffoons, scapegoats, and clueless losers. Or go shop for a Father’s Day card – it appears fathers are best known for passing gas, drinking beer, and being lazy good-for-nothings. You can dismiss these characterizations as humorous marketing or entertainment devices, but that would be na├»ve and shortsighted. Our children see these images over and over and over and they begin to lose all respect for males in our culture – principals, policemen, pastors, . . . fathers.
So, our children begin to look to their mothers to fill roles they were never intended to fill because men have been relegated to the functions of earning money and being a laughingstock. And when the children realize that perhaps Mom can’t fill all those roles, they begin looking elsewhere for what is missing. That goes from bad to worse.

Well, guys – being a “father” isn’t about reproducing offspring; with the advances in technology today, “fathering” a child can be reduced to minimal involvement of the male human being. Being a “father” is not a status symbol or reward. And it doesn’t come with many privileges and perks.
Being a father is about commitment. It’s a challenge. It’s a calling.
Whether you are the CEO of a major corporation or the lowest man on the totem pole at work, whether you lead hundreds of employees or follow others’ directions as an employee, as a man you are the spiritual leader of your household and as a father you have been entrusted with the spiritual development of your little ones by God Almighty.
As a father, you have a job to do that has eternal ramifications. How are you doing at it? Are you getting it done or are you leaving it to someone else?
You aren’t excused from your responsibilities by getting your children enrolled in VBS so some nice “church lady” can present the gospel to them. Dropping your teenagers off at "youth group" to hear loud, rocking “praise” music doesn’t cut it either.
The Bible gives this admonition about your spiritual leadership: Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. (Deuteronomy 6:6-8, MSG, emphasis added)

I don’t intend this to be a brutal beating or a guilt trip for fathers. But what I do want to do is to suggest that in your quest to be the spiritual leader of your household and to be a godly father, do not “take off” for Father’s Day – don’t let the Hallmark Greeting Card Company determine what Father’s Day is supposed to be like. No, use Father’s Day as a platform to display what a godly father is supposed to look like; model manhood and fatherhood from God’s perspective for your family and for the world to see.
If you want to spend a day on the golf course, or relaxing in a hammock, or riding a jet ski at the lake, or hanging out at Bass Pro Shop - do it on another day, not on Father’s Day. Instead, use Father’s Day to show your family that you put them before yourself (and their comfort before yours), that you take your responsibility as spiritual leader seriously, and that our Father in heaven is the only One you want to get all of the attention and praise.
On Father’s Day, don’t just be a man – be a godly man. Don’t be just the kind of father the world expects – be the kind of father God expects you to be.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

FREE

Several months ago, a tenant at our self-storage facility abandoned several pieces of furniture. Although the stuff was obviously ‘used,’ it wasn’t in such bad shape that it deserved to be thrown in the trash. So, we made a few attempts to donate the stuff to various ministries and other charitable entities, but no one ever came to pick it up.
Last Friday I decided to try another avenue to get rid of the stuff by offering it in the “free” section of craigslist. So, I posted the “free” ad at 4:30 Friday afternoon. Even though our self-storage manager takes off on Fridays, I listed her name as the ‘contact’ assuming that if anyone was interested, they probably wouldn’t get around to seeing the post and calling about it until Saturday.
Wrong!
Between 4:40 (ten minutes after the post) and 5:20, we fielded no less than 20 calls about the mattress set, couch, coffee table, and ironing board. And all of the items were gone by 6:00, along with another mattress set that someone had left at the dumpster for other business a few weeks ago!
I deleted the post from my home computer around 7:30 Friday evening. Yet, when I checked my email on Monday morning, there were approximately 25 emails in my inbox, received between 6:00 and 7:30 Friday evening.
It was amazing. And what caused the extreme interest and hyper-activity? That magic little word – “F-R-E-E.”

If the word “F-R-E-E” generates that kind of interest when attached to used, stained, and discarded furniture, how much more attraction should it generate when attached to something of real worth? I mean, when the offer of eternal life in the never-ending presence of the one and only true God is made available for F-R-E-E, wouldn’t you think the world would just go berserk trying to avail itself of that offer???
But that is not really my point today. Instead, my focus is on something I see in myself. I would describe it as a kind of “reverse buyer’s remorse” after having already accepted that “free” gift. As you know, with “buyer’s remorse” you start over-analyzing a purchase and begin to obsess about whether or not you should have paid that much for a particular item. But with this “reverse buyer’s remorse,” I start to realize what an indescribably wonderful thing this ‘salvation’ is and then I start to doubt that it could really be “F-R-E-E.”
“It’s way too good to be true.”
“There’s no such thing as ‘something for nothing’ - especially ‘something’ as miraculous as this. Right?”
So I begin strategizing what I can ‘do’ to justify what’s been given to me. “How ‘good’ must I be to substantiate what I’ve received? After all, I’m just a used, stained, and discarded piece of furniture in the overall scheme of things.”
I look for ways to please God because I don’t want Him to stop loving me. I have to at least be better than somebody else so that the ‘relativity scale’ may tip in my direction.
I can’t let Him know that I’m not worthy of the “F-R-E-E” gift He has given me. So, to keep God from concentrating on what a worthless heap I really am, I try to keep Him occupied with some “what have you done for Me lately” good deeds.
But that isn’t working out so well for me. I try to keep the number of my ‘good, holy, and righteous’ deeds and thoughts higher than my bad, evil, and depraved acts and feelings. But still . . .
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds,they are nothing but filthy rags.
(Isaiah 64:6, NLT)
Besides the fact that the absolute best, ‘most holy’ things I can do are as ‘filthy rags’ compared to Him and His holiness, all it takes is one itsy bitsy, teeny weenie little sin at any time in my life to make me completely and totally unqualified for and incapable of ever being in His presence. (Romans 3:23)
Except for that “F-R-E-E” thing.
And by “F-R-E-E,” I mean free for me. “God saved [me] by His grace when [I] believed. And [I] can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” (Ephesians 2:8, NLT, emphasis added) Because I didn’t deserve it and can’t earn it or pay it back, it is truly a “F-R-E-E” gift.
But it wasn’t really “F-R-E-E” in the sense of there being no cost. In fact, there was an incredibly high, unfathomable cost. But Someone else paid it. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8, NLT)
And that’s when it really hits me: If I presume that in some way, by some means, I can begin to earn, deserve, or pay back the “F-R-E-E” gift I’ve been given, I am saying that the cost that was paid by Jesus may not have been adequate – that something else may be needed.
But that’s not the case. Not by a long shot.
The ‘cost’ was totally paid. Perfectly paid. So the gift is “F-R-E-E.” Totally free.

To ponder the miraculous, awesome, wondrous grace and love that is bound up in that little word – “F-R-E-E” – it just leaves me with an overwhelming urge to embrace and relish this precious, “F-R-E-E” gift that I’ve been given.
“Thank You Jesus. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”

If you are thirsty, come!
If you want life-giving water, come and take it.
It's free!”

Revelation 22:17, CEV